White House Fights to Strip Tough-On-China Provisions From Annual Defense Spending Bill

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
July 11, 2023

The Biden administration is trying to quash provisions in an annual defense spending bill that would stop China from infiltrating American universities and supplying Mexican cartels with lethal fentanyl.

The White House on Monday announced its opposition to a range of national security provisions included in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Congress is currently debating. One provision would force the Pentagon to disclose information about foreign nationals working on military-funded research programs at American universities, where Chinese spies are known to steal proprietary research. Another would order the secretary of defense to determine whether Chinese government officials assisted or were aware of the transportation of fentanyl precursors to Mexican drug cartels.

According to the provisions' author, the White House’s opposition is tantamount to capitulating to Beijing.

"The Chinese Communist Party is poisoning and killing nearly a hundred thousand Americans each year with ‘Made in China’ fentanyl while their spies infiltrate our universities and even high-level government laboratories," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) told the Washington Free Beacon.

"It’s an upside-down world in the Biden White House," added Banks, a member of the House Select Committee on China, "where appeasing Communist China comes first and America’s national security and well-being comes last."

Banks’s measures are part of a larger effort by congressional Republicans to use the NDAA as a vehicle to combat China. China hawks, in particular, have been angling for months to increase pressure on American universities that partner with the CCP on sensitive research projects. Lawmakers are already investigating American schools that use Pentagon funding for research projects that involve entities tied to the Chinese military.

China is one the most prolific donors to American universities, handing out more than $426 million to American schools since 2011, even as the federal government warns that Beijing is using its status to steal proprietary research and spy on Americans.

Under Banks’s transparency provision, the Pentagon would have to publicly disclose the identities of all individuals working on government-funded projects, including the "date and place of birth, country of citizenship, and immigration status in the case of a foreign national."

The White House, in a Monday statement on the NDAA discussions, said it "strongly opposes" this measure because it would "impose a significant increase in disclosure requirements for university research funded by DoD."

The White House also expressed concerns the reporting requirements could "jeopardize the Department’s ability to fund universities in States with nondiscrimination laws that prohibit citizenship and nationality reporting." The administration also worries the strict parameters would "deter the ability to attract the best and brightest foreign scientists from working with the Department."

Banks’s fentanyl measure also attracted White House opposition, primarily because it would force the Pentagon to publicly acknowledge that China is pumping deadly drugs into America—an accusation that could inflame tensions at a time when American diplomats are trying to repair relations with Beijing.

The U.S. ambassador to China, for instance, recently claimed the CCP is not responsible for America’s fentanyl crisis, even though virtually all of the ingredients for the drug are produced in China and shipped to Mexican cartels illicitly running the drug into the country.

The White House says any effort to tie China to the fentanyl crisis would interfere with its ability to "ensure foreign assistance or engagement is carried out in a manner consistent with foreign policy priorities."